Virtual reality is often an individual experience, with one user shaping and traversing a preprogrammed digital realm. But what if complete strangers could gather together within the virtual realm to construct an architectural edifice? Project Correl is an experiment by the Zaha Hadid Virtual Reality Group (ZHVR) in what it describes as “multi-presence virtual reality,” where users can collaborate on an ever-changing sculptural form. Project Correl is a feature of the larger Design as Second Nature exhibition found in Mexico City’s Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), which features photographs, paintings, models, and other mediums highlighting the firm’s in-house technological research. As part of the exhibition, Zaha Hadid Architects’ Computation and Design group collaborated with ETH Zurich to create a 13-foot-tall curved concrete shell formed with a 3-D-knitted framework, dubbed KnitCandela. The VR experiment allows up to four visitors at a time to roam a digital space and manipulate objects found within. The overarching objective for the participants is the collaborative construction of a virtual structure. Over the course of the three-month-long exhibition, successive waves of visitors will immerse themselves in the continually adapting construct, imprinting it with their own personal elements along the way. Collaboration between participants is encouraged by the program's software; components directly attached to the primary structure within the simulation will remain throughout the course of the experiment. Stand-alone objects must be connected to growing clusters of user-assembled edifices to last throughout the exhibition. Objects that remain solitary will be periodically eliminated from the virtual space. Throughout the running of Project Correl, ZHVR will capture the altering iterations of the experiment and 3-D-print models for display within the exhibition. To create and operate the virtual reality engine, ZHVR worked with Unreal Engine, HP Virtual Reality Solutions, and HTC VIVE. The latter is a novel virtual reality platform allowing for in-depth room-scale, real-time interactions. Project Correl and Design as Second Nature will be on display until March 3, 2019.
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In October 2018, Switzerland-based 3-D-graphics software company Imverse released a public beta version of its LiveMaker modeling tool. This powerful virtual reality interface allows for the transformation of 2-D inputs into immersive 3-D environments. While the use of VR in the field of architecture and design is by no means novel, it has primarily remained a tool for the final visualization of a project. LiveMaker not only allows the user to navigate and interact with spaces and objects within a rendered 3-D environment, but also facilitates the real-time manipulation of details such as geometry, color, and placement. Within the digitally rendered environment, specific details imported from 2-D images are easily replicated and moved about the space. The foundation of Imverse’s ability to create this malleable VR interface is its proprietary voxel-based gaming engine. According to Benoît Perrin, head of marketing and communications, “most 3-D graphics today are based on polygons that complicate what should be the seamless creation of content, LiveMaker is the first application of a voxel engine as a 3-D modeling tool.” One of the more impressive tools stemming from the use of a voxel engine is the dynamic shading and lighting characteristics applied to objects–the shadow cast by a column at any time of day is immediately available. How is the application most useful for architects and designers? The platform presents a number of positive implications for firms involved in historic restorations or reconfigurations of protected sites. For example, with 360-degree imaging of Austria’s Hellbrunn Palace, a user can interact with walls, columns, and other elements. If the user comes across a specific detail or object of interest, they can be copied and exported as 3-D models across different rendering platforms. Going forward, features within LiveMaker will be upgraded and expanded by Imverse following feedback from users of the public beta release.
This summer, visitors to Times Square can take in an underwater virtual reality experience, courtesy of the North Carolina-based conceptual artist Mel Chin and technology giant Microsoft. The site-specific mixed-reality public art installation titled Unmoored will come to life from July 11 through September 5. Chin tackles the topic of climate change, imagining a future where melting ice caps cause the city to go underwater. As visitors look through VR goggles, they can see a 'nautical traffic jam' of 3-D modeled ships, each with their own unique identification number and name. Ships move slowly in the city, bumping into each other and buildings, creating waves rendered by realistic animation and sound effects. Visitors can also view Wake, another public artwork by Chin, which “evokes the hull of a shipwreck crossed with the skeletal remains of marine mammals,” beside a sculpture of the 19th century opera singer Jenny Lind. Chin chose New York City as the site for the word because it represents the center of trade, entertainment, and capitalism for the country. Its history is loaded with topics that resonate today, like guns and slavery. The USS Nightingale, which was historically involved with the shipping of slaves, is digitally recreated in the Unmoored experience. The installations are part of an exhibition titled Mel Chin: All Over the Place, presented with the Queens Museum of Art and NYC-based, nonprofit arts organization No Longer Empty in various sites around New York. Times Square visitors can view the show through mobile devices via Unmoored’s mobile app, which is now available for download and use. Check this link for more details.
In his panel presentation, “Enhanced Realities and Immersive Experiences,” at the upcoming Tech+ conference on May 22 in New York City, co-presenter Chris Mayer, chief innovation officer at Suffolk Construction, will discuss how innovative technologies like AR and VR are changing the industry. But chasing the latest “shiny, new object” isn’t what the talk—or even the Tech+ expo—is all about. “It’s not a lack of available technology solutions that could potentially be deployed,” he said. “It’s the idea about how do you focus on delivering value, not just delivering change, and how do you make sure that communication and collaboration are effective in supporting the organization?” Mayer has worked at Suffolk Construction for the past three years, applying what he learned during his 30-year tenure in print media at The Boston Globe to effectively integrate people, process, and technology. In an industry that experienced significant disruption, Mayer says the challenges and solutions employed, along with "focusing on not just bright, shiny objects and technology, but how to create value out of that and the necessary steps of engaging people in the organization, and putting processes in place, were all potentially applicable” to the construction industry where he landed.
Creating value across the boardData drives innovation, and value creation must remain front and center of the process. Otherwise, organizations risk going out of business if they focus solely on technology for technology’s sake, he says. “Part of the way we want to make sure we’re driving that [value] consistently in the innovation that we’re supporting is, ultimately, 'the juice is worth the squeeze.' You want to find something that’s going to matter.” And what counts isn’t just making incremental improvements to specific functions within the design and construction industry, which Mayer observes is highly distributed. Rather, it’s about taking a holistic view and rethinking the entire process end-to-end, he says. “I think we are at a point in time where looking both at opportunities vertically—which is traditionally where I think people would focus on productivity gains—but also looking horizontally at the entire value chain of the construction process from the initial touch point with the owner, through the design, through the financing stages, through the planning and optimization stages, through the execution and construction control periods into the warranty and the quality control process,” he explained. “The idea about how to scale innovation is a big opportunity for us in the industry.”
The right tool for the jobTo that end, Suffolk Construction has created “smart labs” internally that serve as sort of operations control towers where technologies can be invented, tested, implemented, and scaled. Utilizing a series of interconnected screens on what Suffolk calls "huddle walls," the team at Suffolk can simultaneously view project information and financial reports or engage in lean strategies and design planning throughout the lifecycle of a project. The labs also feature a virtual reality "cave" with head-mounted displays in which projects can be viewed individually or as a group. Naturally, Mayer doesn’t see immersive technology as a replacement for existing communication tools, but rather as an alternative. “When I look at virtual reality or augmented reality… I see those as additional options to add value to the conversation,” he said. “Because some information is going to be most effectively delivered in sort of static form on an iPad, but some of it is going to be much more effective if you put on a headset and engage with it.” Whatever is most effective—whether it’s a 3-D model, a 2-D model, or shop drawings—is the tool that should be used, he adds. At the end of the day, that’s what adds the most value.
There’s a perfect storm brewing in the AEC industry with respect to technology, and startup tech companies are stoked because the waves are finally rolling in. A number of factors are contributing to the sudden surge. An increasingly urban population along with a changing climate is placing unprecedented pressure on the built environment, according to Jesse Devitte, co-founder of Borealis Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm geared toward the AEC industry. Fortunately, mobile devices, cloud computing, and endless sensors capturing data have reached near-ubiquitous status just as a slew of game-changing technologies such as BIM, AR/VR, and Blockchain are arriving, he notes. “It really does feel like the industry is at a unique moment in time,” Devitte said. “I can tell you one thing for certain: in my three decades of involvement in AEC software I have never seen so much activity. In fact, I wake up to a new startup in my email every single morning, seven days a week.” As a veteran who was part of Autodesk’s former Softdesk team and who organized the company’s AEC business unit, Devitte is well versed in venture capital. Upon leaving Autodesk, he co-founded Borealis Ventures to support the next generation of software entrepreneurs. “Today, we are focused on overcoming the traditional fragmented and resulting industry inefficiency by backing startups focused on driving data across the entire building lifecycle,” he explained. The Borealis team identifies and works with teams and technologies materially improving how the built environment is designed, constructed, operated, and experienced—and the potential for a startup to achieve industry disruption has never been better, he says. “That doesn’t mean it is easy,” Devitte pointed out. “You are still selling to project-based businesses, which, on the design side, have more work than ever but are facing narrower margins,” he said. On the construction side, he paints a rather harrowing picture. Likening it to upgrading a plane mid-flight at low altitudes, Devitte says construction professionals are “attempting to safely deliver the highest quality product on time and budget for the real estate owners, who have their own challenges including the phenomena of ‘space as a service,’ which is the opposite of the long-term investment/cash flow ROI model that built the asset class.”
Welcome to the Start TankBut shifts of this magnitude are precisely what’s needed to create waves for real market transformation. “These big waves may indeed be the proof that digital transformation of this industry has reached an inflection point—and that is the ideal time to invest for maximum return,” Devitte observed. To those willing to test the tech-infested waters, they’ll have the opportunity to dive in during Start Tank, shark tank-like feature for exhibiting start-ups to pitch their winning ideas to potential investors and customers at this year’s TECH+ expo in New York City on May 22nd. Led by Devitte and featuring special guest judges Dareen Salama (Lehrer) Justin Hendrix (NYC Media Lab), and Greg Schleusner (HOK), Start Tank will enable startups to get their stories out to the market. “For potential customers it is a unique opportunity to learn about solutions they can deploy to advance their businesses,” Devitte said. “To make sure we deliver on both of those fronts, the judges are industry professionals who are potential customers for the startups. And as we say in the venture business, we will see if the ‘dogs eat the food,’ all while having fun in a positive environment.”
On May 26, MoMA is opening Bodys Isek Kingelez: City Dreams, the first retrospective of the late Congolese sculptor and artist’s three-decade career. Born in 1948 in what was then the Belgian Congo, Kingelez was known for creating what he termed “extreme maquettes.” The exhibition will feature over 30 of these maquettes, built of colorfully detailed everyday objects, ranging in size from individual buildings to miniaturized utopian cityscapes, some measuring over 70 square feet. Kingelez’s work is described as attuned to world events, versed in contemporaneous architectural trends, and knowledgeable of foreign vernacular forms. For example Kinasha la Belle (1991) incorporates a distinctively Dutch gabled house wedged into a pastel-coloured circular residential complex, sporting cardboard pendants and a markered frieze. Towards the end of his career, Kingelez’s work grew more adventurous in terms of scale and material composition. MoMA points to Nippon Tower (2005) as a particularly idiosyncratic architectural model by the artist, built of “a plastic Smint box, packaging from a milk carton, BIC razor blades, light bulb boxes, and a playfully shaped spoon.” The cityscapes created by Kingelez are diverse in their architectural forms and scales. Crafted of plastic, paper, and paperboard, Ville de Sete 3009 (2009) is a futuristic city populated by shard-like, sheer, and terraced skyscrapers, which are connected by an illuminated network of Haussmannian boulevards. Ville Fantome (1996), Kingelez’s largest cityscape on display, will also feature a virtual reality component developed by Third Pillar. Through VR, visitors will be able to traverse through the utopian city which Kingelez described as “a city that breathes nothing but joy” and “a peaceful city where everyone is free.” City Dreams is curated by MoMA’s Sarah Suzuki and Hilary Reder, and closes on January 1, 2019.
This year’s Tech+ conference—an upcoming and groundbreaking event showcasing technological innovators in the AEC industry taking place on May 22 in New York City—will feature pioneering speakers that are rethinking existing technological paradigms. Among them is Iffat Mai, practice application development leader for Perkins + Will, who will be co-presenting a discussion about enhanced realities and immersive experiences. As a self-described technology geek, Mai is excited about the fact that the design and construction industry, which has traditionally lagged behind the times in terms of adopting new technology, is finally showing signs of receptivity. “What I’ve seen is a shift in some people’s attitude, of designers and project teams, who are very open-minded about accepting these new technologies and integrating them into their workflow and process,” she said. Mai notes that a number of software companies are making virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) platforms more compatible with existing design tools that allows for greater integration and efficiency. “I’m really happy to see that’s happening in all different levels in our industry.”
It’s all about communicationMai’s enthusiasm for change stems from her belief that these new tools are improving communication and client engagement—an assessment that’s been tested in practice at Perkins+Will and the results of which she’ll share during her presentation at Tech+. “I think VR/AR is the ideal communication tool for the AEC industry,” Mai said. “As architects, communication of design is the bread and butter of our business.” Noting that many clients aren’t particularly adept at visualization, Mai suggests that 3-D technology can help them better understand not only how a design looks, but also gain a better sense of scale and how the space will actually feel. Oftentimes, clients look at drawings and say they understand them, but are surprised when a space is built because they don’t conceptualize the same way design practitioners do. Mixed reality solves the problem in many ways. “We’ve been implementing all these new technologies into our everyday design process and really looking to engage our stakeholders and our clients, and offer them the opportunity to be fully engaged in the design process,” Mai explained. “It’s not just giving them nice little drawings; we really put them into an immersive environment and encourage them to evaluate things by really understanding what the design is about so that, in the end, I think that the clients are a lot more comfortable and happy with the final product.”
Overcoming barriers to innovationAs a result, Mai says VR and AR technologies are streamlining the design and review process, saving both time and money. With the cost of hardware and software dropping, she suggests the barrier to entry will be lowered, especially to smaller firms that currently may not be able to afford them. Ultimately, wide-scale adoption of mixed reality technology boils down to two things, according to Mai: fear of change, and a company-wide commitment to innovation. “If you can get over the fear of changing and have kind of long-term sight of the future and not be afraid of changing, that’s a critical component of innovation,” she said. “And then your company leaders have to be really promoting company-wide innovation, to have people just think out of the box and looking for new ways of doing things in every aspect of the company.” [vimeo 261011445 w=640 h=360] TECH+ Expo from Architect's Newspaper on Vimeo.
Artist Mel Chin is bringing two new installations to Times Square’s Broadway plazas this summer. Wake and Unmoored are part of Mel Chin: All Over the Place, a multi-location exhibition produced by the Queens Museum and the public art nonprofit No Longer Empty. Other locations involved with the citywide exhibition are the Queens Museum and the Broadway–Lafayette/Bleeker Street subway station, which is hosting a May 13 rededication for Signals, Chin’s permanent installation at the station. Wake is a 24-foot-tall installation crafted by Mel Chin to resemble a shipwreck intertwined with the skeleton of a marine mammal. Adjacent to the shipwreck will be a 21-foot-tall sculpture based off of a figurehead of 19th-century opera singer, Jenny Lind. This project is being fabricated by the UNC Asheville's STEAM Studio. A celebrity during her career, Lind was also a figurehead for the USS Nightingale, a mercantile clipper involved in the trade of guns and slaves. Chin views Lind’s inclusion in the piece as means to pull back the complicated, and often controversial, factors that led to New York City’s rise. According to Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance that partnered with the producers on the project, Wake serves as bridge to Unmoored. In collaboration with Microsoft, Unmoored is a mixed reality experience revealing a speculative vision of a world where global warming goes unchecked. Unmoored’s augmented reality section will extend from 45th to 47th Street, and will be viewable through cell phones and tablets. Times Square Arts commissioned these installations, which will be on view at the Broadway plazasbetween the cross streets above at Broadway/7th Avenue beginning July 11. In a statement to the The New York Times, Chin describes Wake coming alive through digital interaction, such as the sculpture of Jenny Lind “who will sigh and raise her head to the heavens," as Times Square floods around her. All Over the Place began at the Queens Museum on April 8. The museum’s portion of the exhibition is the first survey of the artist’s work by a New York City institution. In total, the survey contains over seventy works spanning Chin’s four-decade artistic career, including paintings, sculptures and videos. Additionally, two newly commissioned projects, Flint Fit and Soundtrack, are found at the Queens location. Curators Laura Raicovich, the Queens Museum's former president and executive director, and Manon Slome, No Longer Empty's co-founder and chief curator, describe All Over the Place as a city-wide celebration of Chin’s work and his ability to deliver “provocative and profound investigations of the ways in which we live, our socio-economic contexts, our relationship to our surrounding environments, how power skews the scales, and how poetry can intervene, to a broad public.” Wake and Unmoored will stand in Times Square until September 5, 2018. More information about the exhibition can be found here.
The 2018 Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals took place in Park City, Utah from January 18–28. The festivals featured a range of films exploring art and architecture—whether by profiling artists, addressing the relationship between buildings and memory, or exploring the value of art and architecture in the world, or the experiential possibilities of space. “A house is a universe. It’s an entire world.” So says Alan Lightman, an MIT physicist in 306 Hollywood (2018), a film made by Elan and Jonathan Bogarín, a brother and sister, about their grandmother’s house after her death. Grandma Annette was a fashion designer and a self-proclaimed packrat. Her modest Newark house was piled with stuff, which their mother instructed them to toss. Defying the phrase, “Each time someone dies, a library burns,” the siblings decided instead to take an archeological expedition that turns the everyday objects they unearth into talismans. They arranged her stuff by color and typology into beautiful catalogues, made a 3-D model of the house, and pinned the dresses she designed onto the exterior of the house including the rooftop. The film tells the story of a life and a way to remember centered around the house and its objects. The memory of a building is also the idea behind Sarah Meyohas' Cloud of Petals (2017), which was shot at the former Bell Labs Holmdel Complex (now Bell Works), designed by Eero Saarinen in Holmdel, New Jersey. 10,000 hand-dissected rose petals were photographed and made into datasets, in homage to binary code pioneered at this facility. The filmmaker says “the bit of information was invented at Bell Labs….the transistor, the laser, and the very ones and zeroes of information theory.” In the film, this poetic activity enlivens the now ghost-like space. One of the themes that emerged at the festival was value and success in art. The latest documentary by Nathaniel Kahn (My Architect (2003), The Price of Everything (2018), delves into the monetary value of art and how the market drives the art world. Interviews with representatives from auction houses, galleries, critics, curators, collectors, and artists explore this question. The inclusion of artist Larry Poons’s inclusion is notable. Poons, now 80, saw his work fall out of favor after garnering attention in the 1960s, but regardless, he has pressed on. Here, he is an articulate voice countering the marketplace as arbiter. A different questioning of the art's value occurs in a film set in 1989 Cuba. In Un Traductor [A Translator] (2018), the central character, Malin, a Russian literature professor at the University of Havana, is reassigned from his teaching post to a hospital to serve as a translator. 25,000 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant victims with radiation poisoning were sent to the hospital for medical treatment, and Malin is assigned to the pediatric ward. While at first resistant, he reluctantly comes around to the hospital work by reading the victims stories, and getting them to write and draw their experiences. Malin’s wife is a contemporary art curator preparing an exhibition. As he gets more involved with the kids’ life and death struggles, he become critical of her work, declaring, “It’s only art,” to which she responds that art is life. The value of art versus human life is a core question that upends this man’s life. The Korean-American performance artist Vivian Bang, who co-wrote and stars in White Rabbit (2018), would agree. Her character went to art school, and now makes performances in supermarkets, parks and on the sidewalk about Koreans during the Los Angeles riots. She performs anywhere she can, because she must, despite the lack of any economic rewards. In American Animals (2018), the value of art takes a criminal turn. A bored art student and his cohorts steal rare books which they try to sell to Christie’s. They are caught and sent to prison. Upon release, the protagonist makes his living drawing birds. The filmmakers intercut interviews with the actual perpetrators of the crime with the actors who portray them, making their plight more understandable as a reckless act of youth in a misguided quest for meaning and fast economic rewards. Another tale gone awry is Arizona (2018), where the housing bust from the 2008 financial crisis wreaks havoc. A town outside Phoenix has multiple, nearly vacant gated communities with Spanish names, all including the word “d’oro,” or golden. A man tries to hang himself, a realtor is six mortgage payments behind, and a man about to foreclose takes out his frustration on his realtor. So begins a bloody hostage/murder spree in a desolate housing complex on an unfinished golf course. It’s an urgent, out-of-control romp through a land of dispiriting ghost towns. Other films relished in the delight of art and artists, and the possibilities of new technologies. Two profiles of women artists stood out at the festival. Kusama – Infinity (2018) shows the 89-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama who is best known for Infinity Rooms and her fields of polka dots, and, according to the film, is now the most “successful” contemporary artist in the world. She is shown as a young, ambitious, obsessive artist whose pioneering work was eclipsed by male artists whose similar works were praised, while hers were ignored. Her early contact with Georgia O’Keefe, who helped with her move to the U.S., and Joseph Cornell is cited, as is her return to Japan in the 1970s where checked herself into a mental hospital where she continues to live, with a studio a short walk away. She opened a museum in Japan devoted to her work last year. Impresario fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is shown as a classic artist, filled with energy, creativity, originality, and spunk in Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist (2018).The excellent music choices—no punk included—mirror her designs. In the short documentary, I’m Not Sure (2017), directed by Gabriel Hensche, surrealist paintings by René Magritte are verbally described by an app that amusingly scrambles the meaning. The titular phrase is vocalized whenever the app is stumped by such iconic works as The Treachery of Images (the famous “This is not a pipe” painting) and Time Transfixed (which depicrs a train chugging out of a fireplace). The “neural image caption generator” the filmmaker used was developed to provide automatic verbal descriptions for the blind. Finally, at New Frontier, the Sundance section devoted to the convergence of film, art, media, live performance, music and technology, one virtual reality project stood out with possibilities for architecture, design and physical space. Space Explorers: A New Dawn, developed by a team helmed by Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël, is experienced by viewers in synchronized Voyager chairs with haptic technology that rotate, vibrate, and move. Made in conjunction with NASA, the documentary takes viewers underwater along with astronauts in training at the Johnson Space Center, to the International Space Station, and ride in the back seat of a small aircraft.
- 306 Hollywood (2018). Directors: Elan Bogarín and Jonathan Bogarín
- Cloud of Petals (2017). Director: Sarah Meyohas
- The Price of Everything (2018). Director: Nathaniel Kahn
- Un Traductor (2018). Directors: Rodrigo Barriuso/Sebastián Barriuso
- White Rabbit (2018). Director: Daryl Wein
- I’m Not Sure (2018). Director: Gabriel Hensche
- American Animals (2018). Director: Bart Layton
- Arizona (2018). Director: Jonathan Watson
- Kusama – Infinity (2018). Director: Heather Lenz
- Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist (2018). Director: Lorna Tucker
- I’m Not Sure (2017). Director: Gabriel Hensche
- Space Explorers: A New Dawn. Lead Artists: Félix Lajeunesse/Paul Raphaël
At Tribeca’s “immersive” Virtual Arcade, the virtual reality (VR) film The People’s House offered a tour of the public and private rooms of the White House with tour guides Barack and Michelle Obama. Highlighting artifacts and artworks as the embodiment of the philosophies and policies of their administration (Michelle cites Alma Thomas’s painting Resurrection, 1966, in the Old Family Dining Room), it is a stark reminder of how quickly life has changed. It was comforting to think that The People’s House is a vessel that will continue to change as administrations come and go. The following is a rundown of films and VR installations that use architecture and art that appeared at the recent festival, and that you should look out for. A few referred to the dilemma of finding or keeping housing in New York City. The Boy Downstairs finds Zosia Mamet’s character locating the perfect Brooklyn apartment when she returns to New York from a few years in London; her character is granted approval by the resident bohemian landlady who takes her under her wing, only to find that her ex-boyfriend is in the basement apartment. Will real estate triumph over emotional health? Black Magic for White Boys is an independently produced TV pilot where New York real estate plays a key role: a landlord is frustrated that he cannot raise his tenants’ rent, a magician hatches a devilish plan to save his small theater, and gentrification is causing an older version of New York to fade away. Permission finds woodworker Will (Dan Stevens) fixing up a brownstone for his long-time girlfriend Anna (Rebecca Hall), to whom he can’t quite propose. As they begin to experiment with other people, Will’s handmade furniture and house are no longer creating a home. I LIVED: Brooklyn investigates the borough’s distinct neighborhoods. If you missed Manifesto at the Park Avenue Armory, its segments have been woven into a film featuring Cate Blanchett playing different characters (newscaster, homeless man, puppeteer, punk rocker) who deliver architecture manifestos by Bruno Taut (1920/21), Antonio Sant’Elia (1914), Coop Himmelb(l)au (1980), Robert Venturi (1993), as well artists’ manifestos including Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto, Lars von Trier’s Dogma 95, and others on Dadaism, Surrealism, Minimalism, Pop Art, Situationism, Merz, Spatilaism, and The Blau Rider written by Tristan Tzara, Kazimir Malevich, André Breton, Claes Oldenburg, Yvonne Rainer, Sturtevant, Sol LeWitt, Jim Jarmusch, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and others. Artist Laurie Simmons stars in her directorial debut, My Art. Although her character has been able to sustain her life as an artist by teaching, she has not broken out, while her students (real life daughter Lena Dunham’s character, for example) and friends have. She accepts the summer loan of a gracious summer house, complete with gardens and pool, and spends the summer making films that recreate Hollywood films. These finally give her both the satisfaction and attention she craves. Scenes take place at the Whitney Museum and Salon 94 Bowery. Shadowman is Richard Hambleton, a street artist who was part of a trio that included Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring in the 1980s whose work appeared all around New York City streets. The other two became art stars, their work came inside to galleries and was widely collected, and both died young (drug overdose and AIDS). Although Hambleton at first attained commercial and critical success—featured in LIFE magazine, and with works displayed at the Venice Biennale—he spun out with homelessness and an addiction to heroin. The film chronicles his rediscovery and a planned comeback, sponsored by Giorgio Armani, with Hambleton still painting his mesmerizing shadow-like figures. Movingly, he says that although he is still alive while his fellow artists are not, he is the waking dead. What a contrast to Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait, which chronicles this confident, gregarious artist and filmmaker from his childhood in Brooklyn and Brownsville, Texas, through his rise as a Neo-Expressionist painter (remember his plate paintings?). Schnabel came to be acknowledged for his extroverted, excessive approach to his work and life (frequently seen in silk pajamas, he lives and works in Montauk, Long Island, and in a 170-foot-tall pink Venetian-styled house in the West Village called Palazzo Chupi) as he moved into filmmaking (Basquiat, 1995, Before Night Falls, 2000, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, 2007). We have access to Schnabel and to friends and colleagues Al Pacino, Mary Boone, Jeff Koons, Bono, and Laurie Anderson. Schnabel is one of many art luminaries who appear in Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World which lifts the curtain on the art world economy, or the glamorous and cutthroat game of genius versus commerce where art is created, exhibited, and sold. Museum directors (Glenn Lowry, Michael Govan), collectors (Michael Ovitz), auctioneers (Simon de Pury, Amy Cappelazzo, Lisa Dennison), gallerists (Iwan Wirth, Andrea Rosen), artists (Rashid Johnson, Marina Abramowitz), and many more, appear. Another crash and burn, but with a comeback, is Zac Posen in House of Z, the name of his fashion house. Son of an artist father, he attended St. Ann’s in Brooklyn with Stella Schnabel, Paz de la Huerta, Claire Danes, and Jemima Kirk, for whom he created outfits. He rose quickly at age 21, then his brand fell out of favor and his challenge was to rebuild his company and his reputation in a tenuous dance between art and commerce. More consistent is Hilda, a short about octogenarian Hilda O’Connell who has been making art since the 1950s. She started in a studio on 10th St. alongside Willem de Kooning, Milton Resnick, and Esteban Vicente, and showed at the Aegis Gallery. She continues to make paintings that use language and alphabets in colorful, gestural work. At Tribeca Immersive, in Apex we see a city withstand a violent windstorm created by a looming sun. The viewer is surrounded by buildings being whipped by the elements. Island of the Colorblind is inspired by Pingelap, a tropical island in Micronesia with an extraordinarily high percentage of achromatopsia (complete colorblindness), a highly hereditary condition. The filmmaker says, “Color is just a word to those who cannot see it. If the colorblind people paint with their mind, how would they color the world, the trees, themselves?” The Island of the Colorblind consists of three kinds of images; ‘normal’ digital black and white photos, infrared images, and photo-paintings. Together they are symbolic attempts to visualize how the colorblind people see the world. A highlight is Hallelujah, which reimagines Leonard Cohen’s song. The experience is centered around a five-part a cappella arrangement sung by one singer with a wide vocal range in-the-round. As you rotate your head to view each rendition, the directional sound moves with you. Hallelujah employs Lytro Immerge, which enables live action VR content to behave as it does in the real world. The opening night film was Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, which profiles the music impresario behind the careers of Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Santana, Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, Patti Smith, Alicia Keys, Sean “Puffy” Combs, and more. Best Documentary Feature, Cinematography and Editing prizes went to Bobbi Jene, which follows dancer Bobbi Jene Smith’s return to the U.S. after starring for the Israeli dance company Batsheva. Also of note are: Blues Planet: Triptych, which explores music written in response to the Gulf Oil spill and performed by Taj Mahal; Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story is about the screen siren who was also an inventor; actors John Turturro and Bobby Cannavale dialogue on the vital subject of hair in the aptly-named Hair; Letter to the Free is about jazz behind bars; New York is Dead depicts artists who become hitmen to ear money; Nobody’s Watching is about a successful actor in Argentina who can’t get noticed in New York; Tom of Finland is about cult artist Touko Laaksonen who comes to Los Angeles; King of Peking is about a pirate movie company run by a 1990s projectionist in Beijing; When God Sleeps is about exiled Iranian musician Shahin Najafi living under a fatwa after terrorist attacks in Europe; and two films are about war photographers, Hondros and Shooting War. And I was charmed by Auto, which takes on self-driving cars: an Ethiopian immigrant driver with 40 years experience is forced to “drive” one and picks up a couple more accustomed to the service with amusing consequences. The People’s House, project creators Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël (Felix & Paul Studios) The Boy Downstairs, directed and written by Sophie Brooks Black Magic for White Boys, director Onur Tukel Permission, director and writer by Brian Crano I LIVED: Brooklyn, project creators Jonathan Nelson and Danielle Andersen Manifsto, director and writer Julian Rosefeldt My Art, director and writer Laurie Simmons Shadowman, director and cinematographer Oren Jacoby Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait, director and writer Pappi Corsicato Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World, director and writer Barry Avrich House of Z, director and writer Sandy Chronopoulos Hilda, director and writer Kiira Benzing Apex, project creator Arjan van Meerten Island of the Colorblind, project creator Sanne De Wilde Hallelujah, project creators Zach Richter, Bobby Halvorson, Eames Kolar, Within, Lytro Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, director Chris Perkel Bobbi Jene, director and writer by Elvira Lind Blues Planet: Triptych, director and writer Wyland Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, director and writer Alexandra Dean Hair, director John Turturro Letter to the Free, director and cinematographer Bradford Young Nobody’s Watching, director and writer Julia Solomonoff Tom of Finland, director Dome Karukoski King of Peking, director and writer Sam Voutas When God Sleeps, director and writer Till Schauder Hondros, director and writer Greg Campbell Shooting War, director Aeyliya Husain Auto, project creator Steven Schardt
Hao Ko, principal and design director at Gensler, will be delivering the keynote presentation at the 2017 Tech+ Expo (May 23, New York City). Like a test rendering of a 3-D model, Gensler’s new headquarters for microchip maker NVIDIA in Santa Clara, California comes haltingly into view across the landscape, a glitchy image slowly gaining resolution. The 550,000-square-foot structure has been in the works since before the Great Recession and after nearly a decade in development, work is quickly progressing on final construction. The structure is on track to open for business in September of 2017—construction photos provided to The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) by Hao Ko, principal and design director at Gensler, indicate that work on the building envelope is almost complete, with the installation of final interior finishes and the landscape underway. Devcon Construction is building the project and Louie International is acting as the structural design engineer. Along the exterior, practically every edge of the wide, triangular structure is canted subtly. A roof profile that appears curved is actually made up of broad, segmented lines. Along two sides, the building bulges at the middle, creating fat, cyclopean bay windows. From above, the building is revealed across the landscape as a microchip-inspired paper airplane—a thin roof structure pierced with triangular skylights heaving over the earth. The building is actually capped by a steel truss roof supported by steel beam walls and columns. The deeply-overhanging and undulating roof creates a cavernous interior volume below. Whenever the roof’s folded planes meet at a peak or a valley, they turn downward as large steel section columns that resolve themselves dutifully and unceremoniously by plunging straight into the concrete slab. [interstitia] The construction images showcase a cavernous, two-level interior volume intersected by a series of opaque, faceted cores that interlock with one another and contain communal functions and meeting rooms. The peripheries of each floor plate are lined with work areas. Here, the formal rows of desks and more open-ended breakout spaces will exist in a broad, sky-lit space, framed by triangular roofing members above. The project is notable for the collaborative effort between client and architect that allowed the design team to embed virtual reality-based (VR) visualization into the design process. NVIDIA worked to develop new uses for the graphics chip manufacturer’s Iray rendering engine: the project's iterative daylight simulations involved modeling up to 5,000 light sources per image. Using the technology and cluster computing to pool GPU-power, designers were able to generate renderings in as little as ten minutes’ time, converting the technology into a rapidly-deployable design tool. The technology was also designed to include physically scanned materials in such a way as to capture light intensity and character—rather than to generate only various intensities of color, as is more common in rendering applications. The resulting “simulations” guided the design of the workspaces, where NVIDIA wanted to maximize quality of light. The scheme, as a result, ended up with fewer skylights than originally intended. Simulations showed that not as many skylights were needed to achieve the correct lighting effect designers were looking for. Ko explained over telephone that virtual reality workflow integration allows for a project to take on more life, saying “previously we only had artists’ renditions of what a space could feel like.” Ko added that with VR, the architects at Gensler wanted to figure out how could get “more reality” into the design experience. Scott DeWoody, Gensler’s creative media manager, said that the use of virtual reality was integral to the NVIDIA project and that the firm had “found a use for it at every spot in the design process.” VR is something that is not only easy to adopt into the traditional office workflow, DeWoody explained, but once rendering times are reduced, the tool can result in better overall design quality, as designers “render everything around them, instead of just (rendering) an open scene.” Ko agreed that the advanced simulation techniques add more to the design process than traditional renders, saying, “I’m old school—I came in the profession back in the day when we were building big physical models, to understand size, scale, and experience. Prior to having VR, it was always a challenge to reconcile how you do that.” Technology is driving rapid changes in architecture and construction industries and the building industry, in turn, is a driver of the U.S. economy. Tech+ Expo brings together, for the first time in NYC, industry and technology leaders that are shaping the future of the built environment.
As part of a new project orchestrated by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), tours of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in L.A.’s Barnsdall Park could soon be accessible to the public via virtual reality. The Mayan-Revival style home was built between 1919 and 1921 as Wright’s first Los Angeles–based residential commission and presaged the architect’s experimental “textile block” technology, a system Wright envisioned as a do-it-yourself solution for prefabricated building. The house is also considered the first work in the architect’s post-Prairie Style period. Previously, in Wright’s Prairie Style work, divisions between interior and exterior were stark and emphasized; with the Hollyhock House, that dichotomy gave way to a more fluid relationship between landscape and space, interior and exterior, presaging certain tendencies inherent in the coming modernism movement. The home was also an influential project on Wright understudy Rudolph Schindler. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 and has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The structure was renovated most recently starting in 2010 by architects Brenda Lavin & Associates, a $ 4.4 million modernization and restoration scheme that aimed to bring the structure back to its original luster. The DCA is seeking to make the relic more accessible to the general public and, more specifically, for patrons who cannot enter the building due to its noncompliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The historic status of the work makes ADA-focused retrofits impossible. Instead, DCA is working to transform the interiors of the structure into a virtual reality experience that can be accessed both on-site in Barnsdall Park and via the internet. According to DCA, the virtualization project could potentially increase the accessibility of the house by 210%, an increase that could perhaps boost physical attendance at the site, as well. The push would make the site’s bid for UNESCO status potentially more plausible. The nomination was organized by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and submitted as a group nomination including nine other Wright buildings, including the Fallingwater, Guggenheim, Taliesin, and Taliesin West projects in 2015. While the status of the nomination is still pending, the DCA proposal will be working its way toward approval by the Los Angeles City Council's Innovation, Grants, Technology, Commerce and Trade Committee, the full L.A. City Council, and ultimately, the L.A. Mayor’s office.